Several Non-Dental Diseases That Dentists Can Identify

Although your dentist’s primary obligation is to identify, diagnose, and treat dental disease, you might be surprised as to what other systemic diseases can be detected simply from an oral examination. The mouth is prone to a large number of lesions that are often a side effect of a systemic disease. This is why your dentist examines not only your teeth, but your soft tissues as well, including the tongue and insides of the cheeks and lips. Here are a few non-dental diseases that your dentist might be the first to identify.

Cancers of the Mouth

Each time your dentist examines your mouth, he or she is looking for signs of oral cancer. The most common places that dangerous cancers tend to appear include along the sides of the tongue and the floor of the mouth. Some cancers of the throat may be first diagnosed by a dentist as well.


Due to the many negative side effects diabetes has on the oral cavity, it is not uncommon for dentists to first diagnose a case of diabetes. Enlarged, irritated gums that are bright red, loose teeth, and xerostomia (dry mouth) are all possible indicators of diabetes. A side effect of dry mouth, widespread cavities will also make a dentist question the etiology of the problem, often leading back to the symptoms of diabetes.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux, properly known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) affects 1 in 5 Americans. Most of the time patients already know that they have acid reflux due to the unmistakable symptoms of heartburn and indigestion. Sometimes, however, dentists may actually be the first identifiers of GERD. When acid is propelled upward from the stomach and into the mouth, it can wear away tooth enamel, particularly on the back side of front teeth. Seeing this pattern of wear is usually an indicator that acid reflux is occurring, meaning your dentist may be the one to first see the side effects.

Although your dentist won’t treat these diseases, they play a vital role in early detection. Follow their instructions carefully on what steps need to be taken to manage these conditions.

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Melina has written for several journals and is a non practicing dentist.

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